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Buzz is at it Again: Let's just change everything

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
February 22, 2009

Editor’s 1 Mar update: This paper has been removed from the NSS blog but has been republished here.
Editor’s 2 Mar update: Buzz Aldrin has asked the other two authors of this paper to remove his name from it.
New Space Policy Statement by Buzz Aldrin, Aerospace Technology Working Group (via NSS Blog)
“In our view, there were several fundamental problems with the Bush Vision and its implementation for Space Exploration inherited from the get-go: … (2) The VSE lacks strategic merit, which can only be built upon a sufficiently vetted decision-making process of logic and analytic rigor. Especially, such process should have been scrutinized through hearings to engage the American public and politicians. Instead, the Bush VSE was a product of a blind and near-childish emotional response to a series of domestic and international geopolitical events that occurred in 2003, such as the launch of China’s Shenzou-5 manned spacecraft on the 15th of October and the STS-107 (Columbia) Space Shuttle disaster in early February.”
Editor’s note: “Blind and near-childish emotional response”? C’mon Buzz can’t you try and be a little more accurate and engage in a little less armwaving to make your point? The “Bush Vision” has been repeatedly endorsed by both chambers of a Democrat-controlled Congress. Also, Buzz, I do not seem to recall hearing any of this criticism from you in 2004 when you were overtly campaigning for President Bush’s re-election.
While there are some interesting ideas in this document, it is a little hypocritical to see Buzz and his co-authors dump on the VSE and its return to the moon program as being “imposed [on] the American people” without enough funding only to substitute their own grandiose program which includes even bigger projects across larger regions of the solar system with an equally vague description of who foots the bill or why they would pay for it. You can’t just say the words “commercialization” and “development” and expect things to just magically occur.
As for their claim that this was not all discussed in the open, yes, the Bush folks were contradictory – but not at first. When the VSE was first announced Sean O’Keefe and Craig Steidle went to great lengths to open up the whole process for external input – and Buzz was there providing input. Several years later, when O’Keefe left and other political factions took the reigns, Mike Griffin came in and, in his impatience, simply swept away all that had been done before and imposed his own personal architecture. Now, several more years later, I guess it is once again time to throw all of that out too – good and bad.
Small wonder nothing ever seems to get built.
NASA seems to be much better at changing direction than consistently following its own direction – and space advocates seem to be the biggest cheerleaders for this constant state of turmoil. Each time there is a change in direction everyone ends up with a collective case of whiplash – only to immediately set the stage for another course change a few years hence. Imagine what this looks like to people outside the space community – taxpayers and legislators – when the people who are supposed to understand all of this space stuff keep changing their minds?
Small wonder space is a third tier political issue.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.